Festival organizer Martin Short has a change of name for his annual festival and venue for 2019 so the Badass Bash now became Rockforce Festival and it was certainly a force to be reckoned with as 16 bands, all playing for free shook the rafters of the Waterloo Music Bar over 2 days with proceeds going to a wonderful charity, chART UK. At the end of the festival just over £1100 was raised!
Our early wake up at our b+b to get to the venue in time for the 1pm start was nothing compared to opening band Scarlet Rebels who had been on the road in South Wales since 5am! They seemed to show no signs of fatigue as their 3 guitar line up started the day heavily. ‘Heads In The Ground’ was a foot stomping hoedown, a riff heavy start to the day. ‘Part Of Me’ saw them take their foot off the pedal but the riffs were still potent enough to shake the optics behind the bar. AOR with balls I noted for ‘Let Me In’, laden with catchy hooks. ‘Plastic Saviour’ had early Def Leppard like dynamics. Their 9 song set was all killer and no filler highlighted by the full on wall of sound that was ‘Save Me’. New song ‘Heal’ put the power into power ballad with huge choruses and a tour de force vocal from Wayne Doyle. The summery vibes in ‘Say My Name’ matched the glorious weather that carried on to ‘Not The One’ which hit like as if the Damn Yankees had come from South Wales and set closer ‘Take My Breath Away’ certainly did with bombastic riffing and an over the top wahwah outro.
Next up were crazy heavy metalers Midnight Prophecy from Liverpool, fronted by the iron lunged Craig Cairns, they like to write long songs as they squeezed 6 epics in their allotted 45 mins. ‘Trapped In Space’ was an over the top opener, chock full of NWOBHM tinged riffing and banshee wail screams. ‘Obsidian’ was drum driven melodic metal as ‘Seas Of Eternity’ was a full blown headbanger. Their set closed on 3 metal monsters, first of which was ‘Roanoke’ as lengthy instrumental passages gave Craig a chance to take a breath. ‘The Ridge’ was just over 10 mins of chest beating, breathtaking battle metal of dizzying time changes and and they took no prisoners with set closer ‘Alexander The Great’, a full blooded take on the Iron Maiden classic.
Manchester based Stormrider were one of the loudest and hairiest bands of the weekend fronted by man mountain Mike Coyle whose dry wit was as potent as his bellowed vocals. His opening speech of “We are here to unleash a wave of old school heavy metal’ was a correct intro to a raging ‘Metal Machine’, followed by the equally headbanging ‘Invictus’. ‘Fire And Fury’ was also aptly titled by its speed and precision. Majestic was the only word to ‘Spirit Of The Wind’ and ‘The Patroller’ was a lengthy piledriver with the crowd providing some mighty “Whoa oh oh’s”. Their anthem in the making ‘Made Of Metal’ contained the thrilling chorus of “We are made, made of metal. We are strong, united as one”. Set closer ‘Stormrider’ was my highlight as they kicked out the jams full on.
Cadence Noir, self proclaimed UK Goth Folk ‘N Rollers were one of my weekend highlights. I’ve seen them play to small crowds and to ones of over a 1000 and their showmanship always shows no bounds. Fronted by the diminutive Adrien Perrie, a Tasmanian devil ball of energy who seemed even more fired up than usual during their set opener. ‘The Traveller’ got my toes tapping as they bashed out a joyfully heavy stomp. A snare driven ‘Remoaner’ saw them shoot the breeze with a blur of stunning musicianship and some piercing violin playing from Emma Bennett. A surprise for me was a rare outing of their first single ‘Spark’ and the highlights kept on coming with the heart melting lines throughout ‘A Coffee Shop Romance’. ‘A Reckless Endeavour’ was far from that as it was nothing short of monstrous and the lightning speed workout of ‘Homage’ was introduced as “Anyone up for a jig?”. You would have to be fast on your feet to keep up with this one! Tongues were placed firmly in cheeks as we hollered along the choruses to the potty mouthed ‘Fuck Fuck, Boom Boom’ and they stayed in the fast lane for a rollicking run through of ‘Church’. Their set was expertly summed up by Pete K Mally, the compere without compare who proclaimed “Shit the bed, they were great!”
Glasgow based Black King Cobra, one of 3 replacement bands of the weekend and I’m very glad they were here as they defied genres but my overall impression was of a heavier, soulful Rage Against The Machine. The quirky quartet fronted by the instantly likeable Lloyd Griffiths opened up with ‘Harvest Moon’, all brick heavy alt rock with some inventive Quicksand like guitar histrionics from Ross Clark. He shone once again throughout ‘Ball And Chain’ and ‘Indesirable’ was introduced by “Can we play a slower one?” but it still crushed on all levels! ‘Shiver’ was a teasing slow burner and that vibe carried through to the bluesy jam of ‘Wrack And Ruin’ as it speeded up for a raging outro. ‘Badman’ hit new levels of virtuosity and forthcoming single ‘Lie Through My Teeth’.hit hard. Set closer ‘Quake’ came far too soon, another mind bending number.
A welcome return for The Swamp Born Assassins saw another Glasgow based band entertain us highly with their Southern rock vibes. Grizzled frontman Charlie Moffat looks like he has been on the road forever and his harmonica playing added a bite to the set. The bulldozing main riff to opener ‘Crank It Up’ saw it add the muscle as Charlie growled along like your mad uncle. ‘Blot Out The Sun’ was hard hitting heavy blues as ‘Crawl’ slithered along on a smoky sleaze vibe. New single ‘Weeping Tree’ pulsed heavily with a fretboard burning slide guitar solo from Andy Christie. ‘Better Off Dead’ was so evil it needed to be exorcised as ‘Dead Man Walking’ resonated around the venue. ‘Wildfire’ shot straight out of the starting blocks as forthcoming single ‘Dead Man’s Train’ was all Motorhead bravado, no more, no less and they saved their heaviest song till the end with the barroom boogie of ‘Gator Hole’.
Mansfield based trio ‘Witchtripper’ rightly describe themselves as stoner groove ‘n roll as they packed a punch from the off with the thudding ‘Poonstar’, launching then into the gnarly vocal from Richie Barlow for ‘Chills To The Bone’ and his guitar work drew a musical sword fight with the bass grooves of Chris Daughton but both were kept in line by the drumming backbone of Gary Eric Evans. A bass heavy ‘Don’t Make Me Choose’ and equally hefty ‘White Lines’ was surely keeping the tide at bay. ‘State Of Mind’ was as raw as you like Stooges bluster and they eased back for the pounding blues of ‘Roll The Dice’. ‘I Of The Storm’ was like standing in the eye of one as they dished out a musical vortex. ‘Hell Bound’ was a bare knuckled bruiser and their set ended with ‘Get What You Pay For, the first song they ever wrote together and was introduced by Richie as “It sums us up perfectly”.
To borrow a lyric from Van Halen, Wolverhampton based Gin Annie “Hit the ground running” as they were unchained and let loose on the Waterloo stage. This was my first time seeing them and I was very impressed with their go for the throat attitude. Frontman Dave Foster covered every inch of the stage, eyeballing the crowd whilst belting out the lyrics with aplomb. Set opener ‘Fallin’ brought the party with big smiles and catchy hooks quickly followed by ‘New Bad Habit’, that had a monstrous groove that filled the room and drummer Phill ‘Hammer’ Burrows lived up to his name by whirling his sticks like an octopus. ‘Next To Me’ was heavy sleaze with big band backing vocals. ‘She Sells Sanctuary’ was a guitar heavy take on the Cult classic and ‘Damage Is Done’ could relate to my hearing due to the way it was thrashed out and their set finished on a high with the aptly titled ‘Born To Rock And Roll’.
Headliners Vicious Nature, another Wolverhampton based band didn’t close the day viciously but they gave it a damn good go with their no frills heavy metal. The formidable four have done their fair share of roadwork with previous bands Cloven Hoof, Marshall Law and Cerebral Fix so that experience was there to see as they hit hard with set opener ‘Fight For Your Life’ as relentless riffing from Andy Southwell strafed from the stage. Their set was based heavily on current EP VII as ‘Dream Stealer’ mesmerized with it’s evil grooves backed by a vocal tour de force from effervescent vocalist Andy Pyke. The rhythm section of Declan Parry and Jon ‘JB’ Brown locked in hard to propel ‘Bleeding’ along and to provide staccato rhythms for ‘Dragging Us Under’. ‘Salvation’ was a full on bruiser and as if matters could not get any heavier, ‘The Silence That Kills’ did just that! Crowd “Whoa oh oh’s” kick started the maelstrom metal of ‘System Of Disorder’ that gave Andy a spot to race up and down his fretboard. ‘Twisted Psychotic’ could have been dedicated to the mad drunk with a blond mohican who made his way onto the stage who proceeded to undress himself much to the hilarity of the band who took it with good humour. Their set ended with ‘Rise Up’, as riff after riff tested the mettle of the p.a system as we headed back to our b+b with ears ringing.
Thanks to Nick Grimley for the use of his Vicious Nature photo.